Art Stop – “The Road Not Taken”

There’s a poem that years ago was introduced to me by someone very dear to my heart.  It’s a classic.  I group of prose very well known and respected by most who read it.  Like most impactful written works, it feels very personal when you read it.  I read these words by Robert Frost like it’s a mantra specifically for my own life.

I receipted the poem, “The Road Not Taken” for a sixth grade English class, quite pitifully I might add.  I stumbled through the verses, forgetting which line came next and pausing frequently to regain my thoughts.  It was embarrassing.  I remember children snickering and the teacher’s cold scowl.  Even still, I have a deep love for these words.  Specifically, at the point of escape from my trafficking situation this poem came to mind.  I very clearly had two roads.  I chose the road of escape and THAT made all the difference…

“The Road Not Taken”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/18/12)


We’ve all had cravings.  Something salty, something sweet… a craving for that deliciously buttered movie popcorn or maybe a mound of chocolate.  I’ve even craved a salad after eating poorly for too long.  But what about cravings for the inedible in life?  Have you experienced a craving for a child? A craving for solitude maybe?

Tonight I crave my own space– to build my own nest in a sense.  It’s not so much the isolation that I want.  It’s more a desire to create my own firm foundation… it’s as if I have this beautiful painting formed in my mind’s eye.  It has colors so vivid you think they came from a peacock feather.  There’s such complexity in the paint’s layer that you can almost hear a conversation leap from the canvas but ahh… that’s it, that’s the problem… I need a canvas, my own space.  It’s hard to feel like I’m starting fresh and anew when I keep painting my new art over the old.  I’d much rather just start fresh with my own clean slate.  Part of me tells myself that this is silly, that I just need to get over it, but there’s one thing I’ve been learning and it’s to pay attention to your cravings.

There’s a difference between a “craving” and a “want.”   Biologically, you usually crave something because you’re body is lacking a certain nutrition or mineral.  Some small children try to eat dirt or pennies because their system is low on metals like zinc or magnesium.  My hunger mechanism has been pretty screwed up for years but I now know, if I’m craving red meat, I need to eat red meat because my iron is low.  Our body is built with thousands of singals that naturally tell us what we need if we only pay attention to it.

Now, crave (or need) vs. want is this: “I really, really want that huge piece of cake because it looks tasty.” That’s a WANT.  “I’m really craving something sweet.”  I eat a piece of chocolate, candy or an orange and instantly feel better because my blood sugar was low.  That was a CRAVE or need.  This is probably a poor explanation but my point is that there’s importance in listening to what’s motivating your wants.  I’m craving my own space not because I want to run away but because I want to have ownership in a fresh slate and new phase of healing.

Other things I’m craving? A mom, a dog, a solid reading library, more opportunities to write/speak, field work and travel, quality time with friends, the beach (sun, sand and water all included), a good sports game, a healthy romantic relationship, solitude with my camera and journal…

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/10/12)

The Power of a RESET

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day… have you read it?  Well, around mid-day today I started feeling a little like Alexander’s… things just weren’t working out the way I would have liked.  It was all a bunch of silly things really, but they were adding up fast– not to mention that I was feeling VERY hungry.  I paused in an effort to acquire lunch, only to find out that my debit card wasn’t working again (probably because there wasn’t any money in my account– banks are funny that way… I guess their mamma never taught them to share??)

Now, I’ve been discovering recently that the combination of “hunger” and “no money” is a bit of a trauma trigger for me.  Right in that moment it seemed that the entire universe was working against me to make sure I’d never get a chance to eat ever again and obviously that wasn’t true.  I wasn’t going to starve, I wasn’t even going to have to do horrible things in exchange for a meal.  I simply needed to drive back to where I left my purse (that I was too lazy to take in the first place) and get money for my meal.  In my agitated state I made myself remember the power of a “reset”… a coping mechanism I’d developed years ago as a child.  I literally envisioned a switch flipping from “Out of control/pain/fear/abuse/stress/activated state” to simply “Calm.”  (It used to be that the other end of my switch said “numb” but “calm” now seems like a healthier alternative.)

My 2 for 1 candy bars... and no, I did not eat them both!

That’s all it took for me to regain control of myself thankfully… triggered trauma doesn’t always go away that easily.  But here’s the funny part… after a few hours I was still feeling hungry and had this crazy craving for a candy bar.  Now, I really never, never buy candy bars. They’re horrible for you, expensive and rarely made with ethical/slave free chocolate.   However, I had a clear prompting that I should just go for it and treat myself anyway.  Since I had a similar prompting earlier to take my purse with cash to lunch, I decided to listen this time.  Proceeding to place my quarters in the vending machine I thought, “Ha! Wouldn’t it be fun if two candy bars fell out by mistake as they sometimes do?”  Sure enough, no sooner did I punch in my choice of “A4” than did TWO bars of chocolate covered peanut butter fall to my disposal.  I took it as a sign– a silly sign but still… almost as if though God Himself said, “Here, I’ll cut you a break… good job with hitting that RESET button on your day today.”  I’ll take it. 🙂

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/15/12)

Art Stop – “We Found Love”

I never thought I’d find myself quoting Rihanna in one of my blog posts and yet, here I go… it’s from one of her newer hits, “We Found Love.”

It’s like screamin’, but no one can hear.  You almost feel ashamed that someone could be that important, that without them you feel like nothing.  No one will ever understand how much it hurts.  You feel hopeless, like nothing can save you, and when it’s over and it’s gone, you almost wish that you could have all that bad stuff back, so that you could have the good…

I really have no idea about Rihanna’s background and can’t vouch for all of her music, but I will say this piece of artwork has the most catchy one-line piece of hope I’ve heard in a long time… We’ve found love in a hopeless place.  If you know trafficking, you know exactly what that means.

Take a listen and take it for what it’s worth:

DISCLAIMER: Music video includes some adult content including drugs, violence and sex.  Feel free you to listen to the words if you don’t want to watch… but to me it’s all part of the art that reminds me of the emotions of “the life.”

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/15/12)

A Prayer For All Who Care

For those of us who care about justice in this world… sometimes a little too much… I want to offer you this prayer I read about a year ago.  In a fit of righteous anger I was reminded that truly, justice is not my battle to fight.  It’s my job to help and do whatever I can to serve the least of these, it’s my job to think strategically and strive for sustainability and yada, yada, yada… but it’s my job to love, not to be Saviour.

Archbishop Oscar Romero reflects this freedom with a prayer:

“It helps, now and then, to step back
and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
It is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
Of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
That the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
Knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
In realizing that.  This enables us to do something,
And to do it very well.  It may be incomplete,
But it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
Between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/13/12)

The Week’s Limit

Today was one of those days where I was just plain angry.  The kind of angry where you come home and immediately start looking for a bottle because you’ve got to have just one drink.  I’ve had it.  I’m angry at individuals, angry at organizations, angry at weak men and vicious traffickers, angry at porous borders, weak judicial systems and lacking laws.  I was on maddened roll at times today and those around me knew it.  For a moment or two I just focused my rage on the unpleasant weather conditions because that seemed the least dangerous outlet for us all.  (If I had a punching bag, I’d just use that… I found years ago that hitting walls isn’t too effective.)

I don’t know what it is… I don’t know what was the straw that broke my back today.  Maybe it’s because I’m preparing for a trip dealing with trafficking victim outreach, maybe it’s because I talked about my own story today… maybe it’s because I heard of a friend involved in the sex industry who isn’t in the best of situations.  I was told of yet another country today where trafficking is ramped and there seems to be no one helping.  I want more of our NGOs and more of our governments.  I want more from myself.

Usually I’m pretty realistic about the fact that we’re not going to be able to help every girl.  I probably will not see slavery end totally in my lifetime.  Today though, for some reason it just seems completely unacceptable that even one girl is being harmed by the commercial sex industry– not to mention the million of others.  Yes, I recognize that as I write this it’s only Tuesday, but this week has hit it’s limit for trafficking.  Sorry, no more– no more allowed this week.  I’m done.  I’m not accepting a single more instance of abuse for a single other child.  No.

I know this isn’t me making much realistic sense but I think a little righteous anger is OK.  I never want to become passive about abuse or numb to injustice.  I think it’s good for us to through temper tantrums every now and then as long as the anger moves us to progression and not depression.  So I’m going to say it again- NO MORE!  I refuse to stand by as younger versions of myself remain silent just because there’s not yet a platform for them to speak.  It’s not fair.  Speak here my friends if you can’t speak anywhere else.  I will listen to you.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/13/12)

Paper or Plastic?

Within the first 15 min of a visit to most American restaurants you’re hit will a million choices.  Would you like to sit inside or outside? Table, booth or bar?  Can I start you off with an appetizer? What would you like to drink? Beer? Wine? Water? Juice? Soda?… Soda, ok? Coke, Sprite, Rootbeer, Orange… Coke? OK, Diet or Regular?  And if you’ve got a really detail orientated server,…Ice or no ice? Straw or no straw?  (Don’t even get me started if you choose beer or wine…)  We have entire rows at the grocery store dedicated to soda choices, or chips or I’ve even seen butter.  Today, I noticed literally 4ft of cotton swabs options. (?!!)

To girls coming out of a very restrictice envronment, where they are alllowed no opinion about what they wear each day, the food they eat or pills they take, a Western world like ours that’s inidated with choices is terrifying.  Two of the times that cause me to pause with indecision the most, even now, are when choosing food and choosing what to wear in the morning.  I’m horrible at it.  It’s not a rare occasion when I’ll enter the kitchen and wonder around for 30 minutes before I start in on making a meal.  It’s just next to impossible for me to decide and the whole ordeal actually brings me great stress.  Choosing laundry detergent at the store has a similar affect.

It’s all just too much. I never had choices.  I was never allowed to choose my own clothing until the later portion of high school.  It was mortifying.  Options for dinner were usually fast food or what I could figure out how to make from a microwave or one pot on the stove.  Frozen dinners and soup from a box happened a lot… every now and then mashed potatoes.  If there wasn’t any money for food then the choice would come down to what looked easy enough to forage for or steal.  I’m very self-conscious now when it comes to cooking because of all this.

Choices didn’t used to be part of my daily routine so now it can kind of freak me out.  There have been secret moments alone on the floor of the kitchen where I just sit down near tears in defeat.  All the while I’m hoping that an option will just fall off the shelf and into my lap.  Grounded in confusion on a kitchen floor between refrigerator and pantry is one of my most humiliating moments.  Restaurants with larege menues are just as stressful.  I often stick to one page and refuse to look at the rest for fear that it will complicate matters.  I often will narrow down two choices and then ask the waiter to choose for me.  I hate having a lot of choices… have I said this enough yet?

I am so thankful to have options in my life and not to feel stuck.  However, even if all the choices are good, it’s still stressful to me.  So please be kind world, and simplify… those of us coming out of the life, out of other forms of trauma and out of abusively restrictive environments will thank you.  Besides, do we really need 27 different kinds of butter when there are people in the world still fighting for clean water?! No.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/9/12)

3:00 AM

It’s 3 AM I’m awake… nothing out of the ordinary.  What’s more annoying is that I have to wake at 8:30 AM… I know that’s not terribly early for a lot of people, but might I remind you that it’s 3 AM and I’m just starting this post.  So, to me, 8:30 IS EARLY.

I hate the 3 AM time period, I always have.  Little good comes from this time.  Most clubs are closing or closed, depending on where you live.  Average men are kicking their prostitutes out and the more aggressive ones are just starting.  There’s a particular type of cop out at 3 AM, and they’re usually not the ones checking parking meters.  3 AM is when you wake to odd, startling sounds you can never quit peg.  It’s when nightmares dace and you’re too thirsty to sleep but to tired to get out of bed for water.  For me, this time frame brings back all sorts of horrific memories and so I usually beg myself to sleep through it.  Not tonight though.  Tonight though the sleeping pill has already been swallowed hours ago and still I lay, exhausted and yet wide awake.  I figure there’s no sense more tossing around my covers, so I might as well write.

It’s a lonely hour of night.  Cool and eerily quiet.  It’s an hour that I’m sure has been featured in hundreds of horror films.  Some people even refer to it as the devil’s hour… or apply other such colloquialisms.   It’s a good point of reference for exaggerated stories too as you don’t often hear people referring to 4 or 2 am when recounting a crazy night out with “the boys”.  It’s an hour of troubles.

I remember walking home at 3 AM one morning after a particularly rough night.  The buses weren’t running at that hour and our city had a crappy transit system anyway.  It was safer just to walk, though my feat were hating me.  It had started to rain pretty heavily and my shoes were soppy excuses for leather at this point.  The water was coming down so heavily from my bangs that my eyes felt as though they were open inside a backyard pool.  I could make out a row of streetlights along the road I was walking and kept saying to myself, “Just make it to the next light and you’ll be OK, just make it to the next light and you’ll be OK.

I heard the sound of a car, assumed it was a cop, and ducked behind some bushes.  (Officials didn’t think kindly of 15 year old girls walking in skimpy, wet clothing alongside a road at 3 AM.)  In my pausing for the black and white to pass I stated to shake from the cold.  “If I could just make it to the next road light, if I could just make it to 4 AM, it would all be fine.”  I tasted metal in my mouth where the blood still flowed as a result of the idiot john who had smack me earlier.  “I’ll be fine…” I say, and kept walking… 4 AM and the last of the road light poles will be here soon enough.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/12/12 – 3:00 AM)

Art Stop – “Pieces”

There’s so much healing that can come from both creative expression and experiencing art.  Numerous studies about art integrated into aftercare facilities, rehab programs and counseling have been done. (Find out a bit more here.)  However, simply speaking from a personal standpoint I know that these ways of communicating have been vital to my growth– whether it’s a song I listen to or sketch I draw, it’s been helpful.  For this reason I would like to take a pause from normal blog entries on Fridays (from now until whenever) to share pieces of creative expression that I’ve come across and thought helpful.

I would like nothing more than for this to be an interactive forum, so please participate!  Email in art that you’ve come across or that you yourself have created.  Maybe it’s a touching painting your child crafted or a new song on the radio.  It doesn’t all have to be happy and it doesn’t all have to be good, it just have to be “real”… what I’m looking to share here is authenticity!  Feel free as well to send in great organizations who you find out facilitating great healing with great art.  This can be schools, safe houses, income generating jewelry projects, etc.  If you find something interesting, email it in or leave a comment on a Friday post and let’s start sharing.  (Also, feel free to utilize the Facebook page if that’s easier!)

To get us started off I’d like to share… “Pieces” (a powerful spoken word by a dear friend of mine who, alongside his beautiful wife, does some amazing work).

If the video does not appear, please visit

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/7/12)

Clogged Faucet

Sometimes you just want to cry, you just need to cry… but I often can’t, or won’t… I’m honestly not sure which.  Have you ever really had to sneeze but the darn thing just won’t come out?  That’s the way I feel about my tears.  You feel the emotional burn building up, churring and straining to emerge but alas… there’s no release.  No amount of looking at the sun, sniffing, watching a sad movie or thinking more depressing thoughts will break the seal which has thickened over my tear ducts from years of lies.

Growing up in an abusive environment children are often taught that their emotions are either bad and punished or rather completely disregarded.  My situation was no different.  You couldn’t cry in front of a man you were supposed to have sex with. (Because that, not the fact that I was a child, was unattractive.)  And I couldn’t cry at home either.

I remember a specific instance where I was undergoing some horrific torture for some unknown reason.  The details of this event aren’t necessary to discuss here but the backs of my legs were violently stinging and I was crying– a HUGE no, no and luxury I rarely allowed myself to take part in.  It just hurt too bad.  There are a couple of things which stick out in my memory about that event but one element is not about the abuse at all.  Someone had just left the room where this was taking place because he was so upset and couldn’t handle it.  I then heard my mother say, “See look what you did! All of your carrying on has made him so upset he’s had to leave!”  I was forever shamed.

Crying can be a healthy release and should be allowed as children and as adults, as a male or as a female.  Sure, there’s an appropriate time and place for everything, but it shouldn’t be looked upon as a shameful expression.  I still to this day have a hard time.  It’s rare that I don’t feel embarrassed at my own tears falling.  It makes me feel uncomfortable and vulnerable… as if crying boldly denotes great weakness.  The converse though is that in private, I hate that this part of my emotions still isn’t fully integrated.  It’s better, but still not there.  I’ll fix my faucet one of these days.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 3/7/12)
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